Pirelli tops the Championships on Circuit of Ireland
|Kajetanowicz now leads the European Rally Championship|
Pirelli driver Kajetan Kajetanowicz has moved into the European Rally Championship lead with second place on the Circuit of Ireland, round two of the series, ahead of local man Alastair Fisher – who also scored top points in the Irish Tarmac championship. With Pirelli additionally monopolising the top three in the British Championship classification, it was an excellent weekend for the Italian tyre company, on the same day that Pirelli also won the legendary Sanremo Rally thanks to Peugeot Italia driver Paolo Andreucci. Typically for Ireland, the rally contained a complex mix of weather conditions, which ranged from bright sunshine to snow on the final day, making the surfaces extremely slippery. With the weather being so hard to predict, tyre choices were critical, making the difference between success and a big time loss for those who were caught out. Not only that, but the surfaces were muddy and bumpy over narrow roads: meaning that it was extremely easy to get caught out, as the high rate of retirements proved. In particular, it was very easy to make a mistake when on the wrong tyre. However, such was the adaptability of the Pirelli product that even when the tyre choice was not optimal, the time loss was contained. On the final decisive loop of stages, with Kajetanowicz having reduced the gap to winner Craig Breen to just over five seconds, the Pole chose a rain tyre. Conditions stayed dry, but he still managed to contain his time loss – as was the case when he also found himself with slick tyres on a wet surface on the opening day. “I didn’t always make the perfect choices but it was OK,” said Kajetanowicz. “This was an extremely hard rally, where the weather and so the tyre choice was really hard to predict. Sometimes you need a bit of luck; sometimes you need to gamble. But even when we got the choice wrong, it was no problem. I’m happy to finish second and take the lead of the championship, especially on such a hard rally.” Pirelli also claimed victory on the ERC2 section of the event, with Wojciech Chuchala taking a second consecutive class win in the category to back up his ERC2 victory in the Canary Islands last month, using Subaru Poland’s Group N Impreza. The Circuit of Ireland was also the first round of the ERC Junior Championship exclusively backed by Pirelli in order to give young talent the chance to shine in two-wheel drive R2 machinery. With just two driven wheels, grip was even more at a premium, with many of the young drivers describing the Irish conditions as the most slippery and demanding that they had ever experienced. Poland’s Lukas Pienazek emerged as the winner in his Opel Adam, beating the factory-backed cars of Chris Ingram and Marijan Griebel: with all the podium finishers separated by only a handful of seconds. The Junior drivers are allowed just 12 tyres, meaning that they have to think hard about how to get the best use out of their allocation. Pirelli’s rally activity manager Terenzio Testoni commented: “The Circuit of Ireland certainly lived up to its fearsome reputation, yet we were very pleased with not only the performance but also the versatility of the product in one of the widest windows of conditions that we will ever see on any event. The drivers had the P Zero RK tyre at their disposal, in a variety of different compounds, as well as the RKW7 rain. They responded perfectly to the changing demands of the asphalt in Ireland, as Kajetanowicz’s European championship lead now underlines.” The next round of the European Rally Championship marks a stark contrast to Ireland: the famous Acropolis Rally in Greece, held on gravel from May 6-8.
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